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Looking for Mr. Right -- in India

  • Story Highlights
  • Arranged marriages are still the norm in India
  • Typically families sought Indians working overseas as good marriage material
  • With recession hitting the West hard, Indians are looking inward for suitors
  • Women in India are more comfortable today with the opportunities they have at home
By Mallika Kapur
CNN
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MUMBAI, India (CNN) -- Shweta Gupta knows exactly what kind of groom she wants: he should be educated, well settled and live in a good location --- one that must be in India.

An Indian shepherd bride reacts as her husband prepares to feed her.

Indian brides and grooms from the Adivasi tribe take part in a mass marriage ceremony.

Love may be recession proof in India, but arranged marriages are not.

One of the casualties of the global economic slowdown is the Non Resident Indian (NRI) groom. They were once considered premium marriage material. After all, these were the men who had typically studied hard, gotten top jobs in the West, earned big bucks and could whisk their wives away to better opportunities in the West.

Not anymore.

"Yeah, I hate to say it but the NRI man seems to be out of favor with the Indian woman," said Gaurav Rakshit of Shaadi.com, a matrimonial search engine used by 14 million people globally.

He has seen demand for NRI grooms drop by around 20 to 30 percent since the recession hit. Why?

Shweta Gupta, a 23-year-old student, has an answer.

"Many Indians working abroad have come back due to recession hitting foreign countries and I don't think recession has affected India that much," said said.

She believes there is greater job security in India, so would prefer her husband to be based here. Her mother, who is involved in finding a suitable man for her daughter, agreed.

"Suppose there is no job security, then again he would have to come to India, then again he would have to find a job for himself, so I would prefer both of them to be here. Plus, I want my daughter to be close to me," said Shraddha Gupta.

Arranged marriages are still the norm in India and parents play an active role in choosing a life partner for their children. Traditionally, parents will let friends know that they are on the lookout for a partner for their child. Sometimes, they go to a marriage broker -- a middleman who keeps a stash of resumes and photos of eligible men and women whose families have registered with them.

As Indians get more tech savvy, more people are taking their search for partners online. Matrimonial Web sites are popular since they offer a much bigger pool of potential life partners.

Shweta Gupta is currently pursuing an MBA in Mumbai and is confident of getting good job offers in India --- another reason she would not want to risk that by going abroad.

"As the woman finds her voice in Indian society, a part of the trend is defined by her unwillingness to compromise on where she grew up, the kind of person she wants to be with, the value system she wants to associate with," Rakshit said.

Women in India are comfortable with the opportunities they have at home and don't feel they need to go abroad to have a better life.

As a result, NRI men are out. So, who is in? Well, government employees, who are typically thought to hold more stable jobs. Shaadi.com said demand was up around 45 percent since last year for men with these jobs.

Also in favor now: working wives --- a departure from the tradition of Indian men choosing only homemakers.

Anish Sapra, 27, has been looking for a bride for around ten months --- and he wants a working woman.

"It will be a help -- more than a help -- to have a working partner," he said. "Not just for financial reasons," he added noting that he believes he would have more in common with such a wife.

A wife with a job could help pay off some of the wedding bills, too. Indian marriages are typically large and flamboyant affairs, though the slowdown means they are somewhat subdued these days.

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That is one tradition Shweta Gupta won't give up. She is holding out for a grand wedding with lots of singing and dancing -- she just has to find Mr. Right.

"My marriage should be fun, it should be remembered by all people," she said.

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